- Palliative care
- Mental health
Rebecca McDonald on ‘What is music and Health?’
Music Therapist Rebecca McDonald on ‘What is music and Health?’
My name is Rebecca McDonald. I’m a music therapist who is currently living in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, but I’m originally from Peterborough, Ontario.
I think when I was thinking about how to answer this question, it’s a lot about how I look at what health is. I think in music therapy especially, we’re looking at health as not just those specific physical things. A lot of it is the social determinants of health and people’s mental health, and how that all contributes to someone’s personal health. I think that’s really important and I think for myself too.
I use music a lot for my own mental health and that’s a very common experience for lots of people. I think for me, music and health are very linked and I think it kind of contributes to that looking of health, meaning the whole person.
Music Therapist Rebecca McDonald: On music and health in palliative care
Music therapy as a discipline, I think is at the intersection of music and health, especially where I work in a healthcare setting. I work in a hospital so it’s the use of music in this healthcare setting. The project that I’m involved in is in an Inpatient Palliative Care Unit, as well as in an Outpatient Oncology Clinic, and other areas within the hospital.
So this project came about when I was an intern at the same hospital in which I currently work and this hospital has had music therapists for over 10 years. This job is only funded by certain units and it came out of seeing how well music therapy was received at this hospital and the need for it, and wanting to expand the program that was already there. I had a special interest in working in palliative care, so I put together a pilot project for this unit so that we could expand and have someone who was dedicated to that unit with those patients.
We did the pilot project about a year and a half ago and it was six months. It’s been extended since we were gathering data and gathering surveys from people and getting people’s firsthand experience of what the music therapy meant to them, so that we could show people why it’s a necessary service in healthcare.
Music Therapist Rebecca McDonald on how service for music and health are accessed in palliative care
A lot of music therapists operate on a referral basis when they’re responsible for like a large population of patients. Luckily for me, the position that I have right now, the unit is small with only six to eight patients at a time.
So, I’m able to offer it (the program) to everyone and I like being able to do that because then it puts it in the patients hands and they get to decide if they would like to access the service. And if they want to (access the service), that’s great, and if they say “no, thank you” then that’s great too. It’s whatever they need.
I go in, introduce myself, explain what it is that I do, and leave it with the patient and their families to say if they would like the service or not. It’s not something extra for which they need to pay. It’s funded by the hospital, so there’s no burden of them having to pay. It’s just another service with all of the other things that are offered in the hospital.
Music Therapist Rebecca McDonald: On the impacts of music and health
I think, in palliative care especially, it is difficult to talk about quality of life, but I think the music therapy contributed to giving these people what we’d call “a good death”. Where they feel supported and have their needs met and they have an experience.
When the healthcare system is very overburdened and the nurses are so busy and they have so much on their plate, music therapy is a time when I’m there just for them. It’s just for us to connect with music and talk about what they’re feeling, and experience the music that they love, and talk about their lives. I got to hear lots of lovely stories and one of the things that was really great to see, is the way that it helped families connect because it can be a really hard thing.
Someone’s sitting with their family member and it’s very emotional for days and days, and this gives them something different over which to connect. A lot of reminiscing comes from when one sings a song and they go “oh do you remember when we had that party” for so and so’s anniversary, and remember this funny thing happened. They just start to talk about things like that (which bring) relaxation and that emotional support to the patient.Read More +